It’s that time again. The summer Olympics are upon us.
People are jumping, swimming, riding and throwing things. Millions of people are taking credit for records set by athletes to whom their only connection is citizenship. Sprinter Ben Johnson was hailed as a Canadian when he won the gold in 1988 and then deemed, by the same folks, a Jamaican overnight when it was revealed he’d cheated.
It’s a worldwide celebration of the nation state. A chance to talk about how many medals your country has won.
I’ve always said the best way to get me to watch the Olympics was to rename it the National Football League. I’m not disputing the calibre of the athletes – they are incredible competitors who are dedicated to their sports. It’s just that they’re dedicated to sports I’m not interested in. I mean, couldn’t the javelin toss be absorbed into the UFC? Seems a good fit. Perhaps I just hate the notion of amateur anything. If you’re not good enough to be paid, why should I watch you do it? I admit I’m in the minority.
Then last week, while reading the auto website Jalopnik.com, I came upon a short story that seemed to articulate my disdain. The headline read: “Shouldn’t the Olympics include auto racing?” “Bicycling, rowing and shooting all involve people using man-made devices,” writes its author Raphael Orlove, “So why not cars?”
It was a Eureka moment. “I don’t dislike the Olympics because they’re a twisted glorification of 20th century military/industrial nationalism (and don’t include ‘American rules’ football),” I thought, “I hate them because there’s no auto racing.”
Their lack of automobiles causes me to hate them.
The more I pondered it the more amazed I was that racing is excluded. Of course, those against auto racing in the Olympics would argue that drivers aren’t athletes. All a driver does is sit in a multi-million-dollar vehicle and let the race car do the work. Of all the evil lies that are spread, the notion that a Formula One driver or a NASCAR driver is not a top-level athlete, is one of the worst.
These guys are among the world’s most highly conditioned athletes. According to the BBC, F1 drivers “need a unique combination of power, aerobic fitness and mental strength to handle speeds of more than 200 mph and forces of more than 5G for 90 minutes at a time.” (See, I quoted the BBC, so it must be true.) This goes for motorcycle racing, too. Few sports demand more of a human being. I defy anyone to attend a Superbike race and tell me those guys are not elite athletes.
So, if the International Olympic Committee wants me to watch the London Olympics, initiatives need to be put in place fast to make room for 2012 Olympic Auto Racing. It would be easiest to simply eliminate a sport that requires less mental strength and fitness (like cycling or table tennis) but another solution would be to introduce auto racing competitions that are more relatable to the average Olympic fan. To slowly introduce them to auto racing.
Here are a few event suggestions:
5.6 mile Commute
Racers must commute from Abbot Opticians in South Kensington to 30 Jamestown Road in Chalk Farm, a trip that, according to Google maps, should take 15 minutes. The first driver to complete the commute in 118 minutes wins gold!
Text and Drive
F1 drivers must complete Silverstone Circuit while sending each other texts. The last surviving driver or the first to finish having sent 100 texts wins.
Drive-thru Shot Put Relay
Racers compete in London’s newly constructed Burger-King-Tim-Horton’s-Taco-Bell Competitive Drive-thru complex – a series of moats, pot-holes and bald concrete. Competitors place their orders and then attempt to stifle their growing rage as they wait to receive invariably incorrect orders. The competition ends with the racers driving away, parking and then hurling a 7.26-kilogram shot put at the automatic order system.
NASCAR Javelin Toss
The name says it all. For all we know this sport may already exist.
Super Mom Heptathlon
F1 drivers must drop kids off at school, commute to work, work all day, commute back, pick kids up after school, go home and make dinner. There are no winners.
Those are a few to get things started. I’m sure they’ll work. The 2016 Olympics are in Rio. Brazilians love racing. Ayrton Senna’s home country would be the appropriate place to introduce F1 as an Olympic event. Would the drivers participate? Well, they’re used to getting paid millions of dollars to risk their lives, but you never know, the lure of patriotism is a strong one. I look forward to finally being interested.
In the meantime, NASCAR’S Curtiss Shaver 400 at the Brickyard is happening in Indianapolis on July 29 and the 49ers have a preseason game against Minnesota on Aug. 10 that I am really looking forward to. You can just send me a text telling me who won the Olympics and whether they went into overtime.
Follow Andrew Clark on Twitter: @aclarkcomedy